Williams College Top Questions

What are the academics like at Williams College?


Unless you are taking a large lecture class, the classes at Williams are generally not larger than 30 students (this would be too large for a class in my major's department of English). We are very fortunate in this respect. It is difficult for a student to be "invisible" in a class, and professors also expect a lot of participation in and preparation for seminars. Students are generally not outwardly competitive with one another.


The academics at Williams are very challenging, but even more rewarding. The professors here are truly extraordinary. Before I even walked into my first class, my professor knew the names of everyone in the class (30 people).


All of my professors know my name. And I am not unique in this. Academics at Williams is the reason why our students attend. We have coffee with our profs on the weekends or after class and we'll e-mail them just because we have a question that we'd like their thoughts on. My math teacher is an awesome person who I've talked to multiple times outside of class about golf, calculus and graduate school. My economics teacher is a golfer and we're planning to play this Spring. I think I e-mailed him over 200 times this semester about course work and such. He responded every single time within 24 hours. My other professors are equally passionate about their subject areas as they are knowledgable. Put bluntly, the profs are experts in their areas and extremely intelligent in others. Students are always studying. Always. We like to study because it leads to learning. And you bet we love to learn. We're always having intellectual discourses about random topics that appear in the news or on campus or whatever. It doesn't matter; we're always talking and sharing opinions, learning from each other because we each appreciate and value the other's opinion and knowledge. Students are not competitive, really. We're all going for the A, but we don't talk about grades because we're more interested in the information and the educational value than the grade professors assign for us. The requirements among departments are lenient. You have to take a quantitative class and a class that endorses diversity, and one that is writing intensive. These requirements are not hard to fulfill. Most students do so without even recognizing it. The education at Williams cannot be consolidated as to say it is "job-gearing." We're not Wharton, a school designed for business and finance majors. Yet our school's reputation could place you in the same job that a Wharton graduate could. We are an institution geared towards learning. Our students graduate aware and knowledgeable. Because of this, we ARE ready for the working world, not because we have been told what to do. It is a consequence of our learning that results in our preparedness, not our one-tracked mind.


Classes here are challenging. The workload is substantial for many (but certainly not all) courses. Professors push their students and try to get students to do their best work, but they almost always ask for work that is within reason. Professors here really want to get to know students. I've had professors learn the names of every student before the first day of class (even for a lecture with one hundred and twenty students), take me out to breakfast, take me out for dinner, and I've even been to the President of the College's house. Students are not competitive. I always see people studying together in groups at the library, at the coffee shop, and in various study areas around campus. There isn't always as much intellectual discussion as I would like, but I find as I get into smaller and smaller classes, that intellectual discussion happens more frequently, easily, and often spills out of the classroom.


The academics here are amazing. I have one professor first semester for my inorganic chem class who knew all 110 students' names before our first class even started. The vast majority of professors are great and many will go out of their way to help you, whether it's going over material you didn't quite understand in class, buying you breakfast, showing you around their lab, or giving you an extension. I study ALL the time, but it's definitely worth it. I definitely get out of classes what I put in to them. Furthermore, students are not competitive. It's easy to get feedback from other students on essays and problem sets if you know where to look.


Professors definitely know you're name, even in big classes, they will make and effort and if you attend office hours or study sessions, you'll be recognized. Student studying ranging from minimal to intensive depending on the person, but students still find plenty of time for extracurriculars. We aren't a competitive lot, and many students help each other study. Most of the departments have picnics and socials. For example, the Chemistry department has a couple picnics and an annual softball game against the Biology department. The Chemistry and Biology students also have weekly snacks, and the Math Department has an ice cream social every semester. I see two of my professors in the gym regularly (they train for marathons!), and some of the small classes or departments get together for parties or dinner at a professor' home.


The academics at Williams are rather superior, but not necessarily as world class as you would imagine. You could probably get about the same education at a Big Ten honors college. The key to getting a decent education from Williams is to not follow the pack of prep school alums who will be lying up for Art History majors or the jocks trying to breeze through Econ and Psych. (This coming from a Psych major, but not a jock.) Find something that interests you, that really motivates you. For me, this was religion. Though, as you'll note, I'm not a religion major. My career path lies with Psychology, but there are times when it can become dry and boring and banal. Religion, on the other hand, is something often underappreciated at Williams, and the department is filled with quirky professors and students alike. Religion is what keeps me going when the hum-drum world of the Psychology major gets me down. You need to find your religion if you're going to make it through Williams. Take classes on topics you will probably never need to know again, like African art or the social theory of Carnival. You will thank yourself later. The students at Williams tend to find academics to be work rather than pleasure. Few people are interested in discussing academic topics outside of class or doing anything other than the bare minimum needed to pass. That being said, the bare minimum is rather high. If you want to achieve anything in the B+ and up range, plan on spending a good 70-80{4a082faed443b016e84c6ea63012b481c58f64867aa2dc62fff66e22ad7dff6c} of your free time in the library. It's difficult at Williams to get anything lower than a C, but it's certainly possible. Professors at Williams are rather open to talk to you about anything. Some even give their home phone numbers. This openness is definitely something you should take advantage of, as it will substantially improve your grade to be in contact with the person grading your exam. Regarding how well Williams prepares you for a career, those on the Econ/Bio/Chem/PreMed/PreLaw route are well-prepared to hold nearly any job they want after graduating. If you like Div I or Div II (excepting Econ), expect to feel that you've learned quite a bit in four years, but not to know how to apply that knowledge to the real world.


The classes are great, psychology is a lot of fun. I dont study too much. The professors are fantastic.


Professors definitely know your name, and you know theirs, and often a good bit about their family, too. Students study a lot. This isn't the number one liberal arts school for nothin'. Class participation is often required. Intellectual conversations outside of class abound, with a few exceptions. The most unique class (and probably hardest) I've taken was The Syntactic Structure of English, a linguistics class in which we tried to build rules of grammar based on usage data, our own knowledge of the language, and the transformational grammar of Noam Chomsky. I think the curriculum is awesome, manages to get you trying new things, and also prepares you well to be a unique and strong problem solver. We are trained on how to think, not what to think. Science classes are rigorous and satisfying and leave you feeling like you have a better grip on the way the natural world really operates, but at the same time allow you first hand experience in research. You are made to understand how scientific inquiry is a never ending and incredibly creative process. Social sciences and humanities leave you with much improved writing skills and new questions you may spend your life answering.


Everyone at Williams is smart. Kids do discuss intellectual subjects outside of class on a regular basis. The sciences, especially Biology, Chemistry, and Physics are all very strong departments.